Long before there was an Empire, the Highborn of Highguard colonized the bay of Catazar, building several cities on its shores. These cities prospered through trade both internally and with foreign Nations over the sea. Over time, as Highguard society declined, the citizens of the early cities became increasingly frustrated by the graft and corruption that began to stifle trade. Nepotism, bribery and the abuse of power became daily events and many merchants were bankrupted, imprisoned or executed at the whim of despotic Patricians.

When Highguard devolved into anarchy and civil war, the citizens of the four great cities of Sarvos, Verrario, Mestra and Regario simply declared independence. There was some internal conflict, as the Patrician influence was deftly removed, but their independence was achieved without the descent into chaos that marked the collapse of early Highborn society. Partly this success was due to the hard work of a consummate politician named Aldones, who exerted influence, bribery, intimidation and sheer charisma to help ensure transition from Highguard to independence. The early Merchant Princes called their nascent Nation "The League of the Catazar Bay" and enshrined principles of law designed to support a capitalist society.

After the turmoil came to an end, the League opened diplomatic ties with Highguard but made it clear that they no longer considered themselves part of that Nation. There was some initial resistance to the idea from the Highborn, but they had just come out of a period of extensive turmoil and few had the stomach for a war of conquest against what were essentially their own people - and their leaders were committed to the idea that Highborn would not fight Highborn.

Over the next several centuries, the League prospered. The cities were ruled by Merchant Princes whose wealth and taxes raised walls and paid for the emerging Free Companies to defend them. Their reach extended beyond their walls to protect the outlying farms and settlements within their dominion although it was rare for a Prince’s will to carry further than an army could march in a day. Threats came from the other cities as often as from the barbarians and bandits that lived beyond the city walls, competition and rivalry often boiling over into armed conflict.

Mestra and Regario were the first Bay cities to join the Empire. Defeats in the field had led to increased taxation and from there to civil unrest. The Carta of the two cities met with their Princes and pressured them into giving up their power and acknowledging Imperial authority in return for Imperial assistance. Over the following decade they were able to buy off the Free Companies, allowing them to unite the Catazarri cities into the League. Under Imperial rule the wealthiest Carta in each city would elect a Senator to stand for them. Where before a Merchant Prince would rule their city like a fief, now their powers were limited by Imperial law. The title of Merchant Prince or Princess became the modern honorific, claimed by the heads of the Cartas to indicate their status and wealth.

In the years that followed, the Empire consolidated its control of the lands around the Bay of Catazar, driving the orcs into the wilderness. The cities of the League worked tirelessly to advance the Empire, but despite military successes the Catazarri people were unable to identify any cities that shared their enterprising approach in the lands being conquered. They prided themselves on being first amongst equals in the Empire, but they began to whisper to each other about their loss of influence as other Nations gained new territories and senators - especially the Verrari, who had never quite forgotten the days when their city ruled the "Kingdom of the Scorrero River" as far upriver as Temeshwar.

The Varushkan city of Temeshwar was the first to see the advantage of joining the League. As the Varushkan people prospered, the city became an important trade hub and prosperity lead to growth. Unlike traditional Varushkan settlements ruled by a single Boyar, the city was ruled by a council of Boyars, most of whom were drawn from the prosperous merchants of the city. The Merchant Princes laid their plans and sent envoys in secret, bearing gifts and bribes for the burghers of Temeswar, but found them more than receptive. The urbanisation of Temeshwar had given them more in common with the League than with their own people, and following two years of careful negotiation, they petitioned the Senate to be recognised as part of the League. The League sent engineers to build up their dockyards, and Temeshwar has since served as an important centre of trade, providing access to the great wealth of Varushkan raw materials for the Empire, and importing vast amounts of finished goods to sell to the Varushkans. Thanks to the people of Temeshwar the League enjoys cordial - and profitable - associations with the majority of the Varushkan people.

A decade later, Imperial forces drove the orcs from a region of pastoral land on the border of the Dawn dominated by the prosperous merchant city of Holberg. The Merchant Princes seized this opportunity and following the precedent created by Temeshwar convinced the Senate to declare the city to be part of the League, to the fury of the knights of Dawn, who had fought long and hard in the campaign. In recent history, when the territory surrounding the city was overrun by barbarians, the threat was in no small part due to the political divisions past conflict still evoked. League Senators have claimed that Dawn tarried too long in offering support.

The union of Holberg with the nation lead to the League dropping "of the Bay of Catazar" from its name though. The citizens of the founder cities considered themselves very much "first among equals," but the proud Holberg burghers refused to join the League as anything other than equal partners. This became a potential deal-breaker, but in the end (and with additional support for the idea coming from prosperous Temeshwar) the Catazarri agreed to the change.

CHECKThe accusation is made sharper by the fact that without Holberg's control over the Scorrero river, the League would need to ship goods from Temeswar through Dawn's borders and trade their rights on the valuable pearls and treasures from the bay of Catazar in order to do so.